Our choice for a small town break from Budapest was charming Szentendre, or St. Andrew. The town is an easy 40-minute train ride along the Danube from Budapest’s central Batthyány tér metro station. The portion of the journey within the administrative bounds of Budapest was covered by our tourist transit pass and we only had to pay a small additional supplement fee to finish the journey on the commuter section of the line.
We wandered the residential streets around Kör utca on our walk from the train station to the center of town. This quiet, cobblestoned area, though small, was a nice surprise and we had the area to ourselves.
We snuck down an alley to Fő tér, the main square, which was much more alive. The square was graced with a lampshade art installation during our visit which added a quirky element to the charm. Blagovestenska Church, a remnant of Szentendre’s multicultural past, is worth a visit, though the entry fee seems silly for such a small sight. The orthodox church was built in the 18th century at a time when Serbs dominated the area. Many Serbs emigrated from Serbia to escape from the Ottoman Empire; Austria-Hungary was happy to receive these immigrants and Szentendre was a popular destination for them. The town at different times has also seen mass immigration from Croatia and Germany.
After enjoying a stroll along the riverfront we walked back toward the center and up to the small hill that’s crowned by Saint János Church. Szentendre has a strong history in the arts and that is evidenced today by the many museums and galleries scattered throughout the town. We visited the Béla Czóbel Museum which showcases the work of the eponymous 20th-century Hungarian painter, who was responsible for introducing the country to Post-Impressionism styles through his association with frontier artist groups in France, the Netherlands, and Germany. Though not a worldwide household name, Czóbel is a top tier Hungarian painter and it’s always interesting to learn more about the artistic heroes of a country and its people.
We ended our visit with a stroll down Bogdányi Way and some delicious gelato from Levendula Kézműves Fagylaltozó. We only spent a half-day in Szentendre, but we fell in love with its charm and artistic flair and it offered a nice break from the high energy of Budapest.